By way of biography check what I have said about Emitt Rhodes on this blog in the past and refer to the links below.
Emitt Rhodes … one of the great unheralded (though cultishly popular) singers of the 60s and 70s.
His output is one album with his LA band The Merry-Go-Round, four solo albums, and a handful of singles.
This is his first and third solo album.
Yup … corporate record labels – what do they know?
The album has a convoluted history as you would expect
As elaborated by Badcat records: "As you'd expect, the album has a rather tortuous history. When the Merry-Go-Round collapsed in 1969, under their recording contract they still owed their label A&M Records another album. As de facto band leader, it was left up to singer/songwriter/guitarist Rhodes to go back into the studio in an effort to cobble together a second album. The end result consisted of a mix of previously completed Merry-Go-Round tracks, polished up demos and some new studio tracks. Rhodes completed the project in mid-1969, but A&M management simply shelved the project.
Jump ahead and 1970 saw Rhodes solo career beginning to attract considerable attention via his self-titled 1970 ABC/Dunhill debut. More than willing to cash-in on Rhodes sudden commercial recognition, A&M wasted no time dusting off the earlier material. Packaged as an Emitt Rhodes solo effort, the album had the misfortune of being released at the same time Rhodes' second Dunhill album hit the streets".
The general assumption is that this album is not as strong as his first two legitimate solo LPs …and that's probably right, but to dismiss this album would be foolhardy.
This is sublime sunshine, psych, baroque pop.
It's not lightweight and airy though there is meat on the bones. Apparently, the producer introduced horns and strings to the album that Rhodes didn't care for – to my ears they do nothing to detract from the album but I do acknowledge that it would have sounded much more "of the moment" in 1969 rather than 1971.
Paul McCartney will always be referenced in any Emitt Rhodes discussion. That's a pity though it is inevitable because Rhodes channels McCartney and then takes the McCartney sound into places where McCartney himself might not have gone.
The interesting thing on this album is that the McCartney sound is only partially referred to. The hodgepodge genesis of the album means you can hear the transition of the Beatles influenced Merry-Go-Round psych pop into McCartney influenced singer songwriter music.
Along the way Rhodes enters the head space of Brian Wilson, and Nilsson.
Interestingly (there are a lot of interesting things to mention), Rhodes has said that his primary interest in The Beatles was through the writing of John Lennon whose directness and symbolism appealed to him more, even though his vocal range and style was more similar to Paul’s. Then again who knows, Rhodes may be playing with us as I suspect he is mischievous. It doesn't matter.
What is particularly surprising and perhaps (only just) some of the albums undoing is that Rhodes seems to tackle a number of styles as you would expect from songs written over different periods with different considerations. But Rhodes has stitched the results together making it pretty hard to tell or more importantly, irrelevant to the records enjoyment.
Interestingly this is the only Rhodes solo album to contain other musicians … he otherwise played everything himself. He uses legends like Hal Blaine, Don Randi, Jim Gordon, Larry Knechtel, Drake Levin, Joel Larson … no slouches there.
Lyrically, Rhodes is of his time … there are light songs and "heavy" songs with lyrics full of drama and youthful observations. His knack is for getting those lyrics into catchy melodies and then showcasing with his voice perfectly.
In reading about this album someone said something like, this album has the distinction of being the best 'contractual obligation' album you'll ever have the pleasure of hearing.
That's not too far from the truth.
Oh, and did I mention Rhodes was 19 when he recorded this!
Justin Bieber is 20.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Mother Earth – if Paul McCartney wanted to be Donovan he may sound something like this.
- Pardon Me – a gentle song and it could have been an outtake from "Magical Mystery Tour" with its "Fool On The Hill" flute/recorder sounds.
- Textile Factory – a little of the Lovin Spoonful meets Joe South with gentle touches of Appalachian strings.
- Someone Died – magnificent – McCartney apes Brian Wilson.
- Come Ride, Come Ride – lush baroque pop with a carnival carousel feel (or as the album's liner notes refer to it, "the great mandalla (wheel of life)"). Epic it is but it is also quite dated by 1971 but perfect for 1968-69. Given I'm listening to it in 2014 it matters not whether it was released in 68, 69 or 70.
- Let's All Sing – a catchy, happy, bubblegum sing-along, most notable for the fade out, where you can hear Emitt singing "All we are saying, is give peace a chance"./
- Holly Park – A McCartney's piano ditty or a Harry Nilsson child-like romps this has some nice chord and tempo changes.
- You're a Very Lovely Woman – dramatic
- Mary Will You Take My Hand – a calypso feel with steel drum and old and a central character called Mary which could have come from a Harry Belafonte song. I don't mind this.
- The Man He Was – a darkly baroque story
- In the Days of the Old – a sort of children's song about the ye days of olde. This is Anglophilia gone crazy with more than a hint of the 1969 Bee Gees (OK, they are Australian via England)
- 'Til the Day After – really quite beautiful.
Excellent …. I'm keeping it.
Come Ride, Come Ride
interview and playlist
- A&M released album tracks 'You're a Very Lonely Woman' b/w ''Til the Day After' as a single. The A side was an old Merry-Go-Round number that drew noises of lawsuits from the former band members. A&M solved this by reissuing the album without the song ("Saturday Night" replaced it) and with a different sleeve.
- Rhodes on the Beatles: "I was in the Emeralds and I was the drummer. I was playing a lot of surf, Beach Boy tunes and stuff, and soul tunes and went to Beatle tunes. That was kind of the first thing that happened … The suit thing. I saw the movie. The black and white movie. And all of a sudden, 'Hey, yes, they don’t look that bad.' They had an influence on the whole world, didn’t they?
"They were really good," he continues. "I listen to those records now and I’m going, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s like really good. They knew how to put chords together. They used diminished chords. They were smart. That’s what I liked about them. I never thought that the Stones were smart."
Why? "I was never a Stones fan. You lick his lips and you stick ‘em to the wall. That’s Mick Jagger. I’ve heard that referred to as Angelina Jolie. I would actually enjoy that better. But again, I’m not actually much of a Stones fan. I’m not really much of a fan. The people I like are dead scientists."
- More: "What were his favorite Beatle songs? "'I’m a Loser.' God, there’s so many of them … 'No Reply.' I’m thinking back to the early songs that me and my friend got together and sang and learned how to play harmony and stuff. I loved all that early stuff. Then they got psychedelic and Indian and they went on then. And I went right along with them because they were still great. They were still doing wonderful stuff. And it’s real impressive and all that stuff. I liked that, “She’s got the devil in her heart,” which isn’t even a Beatle tune. But I remember the first stuff, which was real song-oriented. It was like two minutes and the song’s over? That’s it, you know?"
What musicians did he particularly respect in the ‘60s? "Dave Brubeck. Yeah, that’s it. There ya go. I respected him. The Beatles were great. They did a lot of wonderful stuff. It was probably that George Martin guy that did all that. He was the Fifth Beatle, after all." He says the Byrds "had a nice harmony kind of thing. They had some nice records. The Lovin’ Spoonful. I think they did some great stuff. … They wrote some great songs. They had some classics. 'Daydream' and stuff like that. I love 'Daydream.'"
- In 2001, film director Wes Anderson used, to poignant effect, Rhodes 1970 tune "Lullabye" (from "Emitt Rhodes") in the soundtrack to The Royal Tenenbaums.
- Recently there has been a documentary made on him called "The One Man Beatles" (2009) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLL8CsVeOiE